Over My Dead Body: A Lively Tour of Famous American Cemeteries
Join us to explore the history of how, where and why we bury our dead. Melville will take us on a lively, wide-ranging tour of the history of famous American cemeteries—places that have mirrored passing eras but have also shaped them. Cemeteries gave birth to landscape architecture and famous parks, as well as influenced architectural styles. They’ve inspired and motivated some of our greatest poets and authors—Emerson, Whitman, Dickinson. They’ve also been used as political tools to shift the country’s discourse and as important symbols of the United States's ambition and geographical reach.
But cemeteries are changing and starting to fade away in the 21st century. Burying embalmed bodies is incredibly toxic, and although cremations are now even more popular than burials, they’re not great for the environment either.
A summer job cutting grass at his hometown cemetery inspired Melville to explore every issue surrounding cemeteries—history, sustainability, land use, and more—but above all to think about what it really means to memorialize the lives of those we love.
Cemeteries in Over My Dead Body
Shawsheen Cemetery in Bedford, Massachusetts
The 1607 Burial Ground in Historic Jamestowne, Virginia
Burial Hill in Plymouth, Massachusetts
Colonial Jewish Burial Ground in Newport, Rhode Island
Monticello’s African American Graveyard in Charlottesville, Virginia
Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts
Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York
Laurel Grove Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts
Central Park in New York, New York
Gettysburg National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia
Woodlawn Cemetery in Bronx, New York
Boothill Graveyard in Tombhill, Arizona
Forest Lawn Memorial-Park in Glenwood, California
The Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland, California
Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles, California
Nature's Sanctuary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
A Humanities Member-led Forum program. Forums at the Club are organized and run by volunteer programmers who are members of The Commonwealth Club, and they cover a diverse range of topics. Learn more about our Forums.
Author photo by Ann Marie Johnson.
The Commonwealth Club of California
Journalist; Magazine Editor; Navy Veteran; English and Writing Teacher, United States Naval Academy; Author, Over My Dead Body: Unearthing the Hidden History of America's Cemeteries
In Conversation with George Hammond
Author, Conversations With Socrates
3–4 p.m. program
(all times PDT)